Calculus 1

Do you like math?

I’m having a bad time. To me, it is a waste of time to study for my Calc 1. Do we really need that?

Not all med schools require calculus but a lot of them do. Will you use calculus per se in medical school or in practice? No. You WILL recognize a lot of your physics, o-chem and bio in the med school curriculum, and even gen-chem from time to time.

But learning a hard discipline that requires a certain way of thinking - which is how I view calculus - IS a useful process to undergo when you are considering medical school. In med school you’ll have a lot thrown at you and will need to identify your own ways of learning stuff quickly and effectively. There’s something sort of Zen about calculus that definitely helps you learn how to put things in their proper places, I think. (hard to explain)

Learning is never wasted. It’s just not always clear what you are going to do with it. Sometimes the purpose of the course is to stretch your brain and, well, just learn something. That’s not a bad thing.


Honestly, calculus probably isn’t really necessary for medicine in general. I don’t think any doctor, paramedic, etc. is going to bust out a derivative when doing patient care. And quite frankly, most calculus teachers are absolutely atrocious.

That being said, I believe that the year of calculus I was required to do for my major has made me better at the simple arithmetic that’s required in medical math for drug calculations, dosages, etc. because I can understand where the dimensional analysis (which simplifies the math when applied) comes from and also because I know it could be a lot worse as far as the math you’re required to do is concerned.

Lastly, and most importantly, in calculus you are given a variety of different methods for solving a problem. You will no longer have one clear-cut way to do something (at least in most cases) and therefore you will have to pick the method that is the most efficient for the problem at hand. This is exactly the kind of critical thinking that becomes important in medicine in my opinion.

No, you will probably never use calculus in medicine as a practicing physician. However, the critical thinking you’re required to utilize in calculus you will use every day.

I don’t like critical thinking. It’s too, critical. Just kidding.

Honestly, I’m petrified of calc and if I can get into a program that doesn’t require it, more the merriment. I’m holding off on it in lieu of other sciences. Math is just hard for me. SO until I absolutely need it, I’m denying it exists.

Thank you all for your responses! Yes, Tim, my professor IS atrocious! He doesn’t even let us use the calculator!!! OMG, I’m not having a nice semester…

I simply LOVED calculus. I took two of them courses!

There you go.

Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Not ALL calc teachers are atrocious. . .I had 4 who were all good (calc I --> Diff Eq), but I also never got stuck with a foreign TA or anything.

I don’t know anything about your background, but in my undergrad days, I avoided a lot of things because someone said they were hard. Every single class I was freaked out about turned out to be easy for me. I would have had a whole different path back then if I had not put off taking them for so long. . .Point is sometimes stuff is not so bad as we make it out to be in our heads.

Also, all the schools I went to had some sort of “math center” where you could go get help every day, if that’s what it takes. You might look into that.

My calc teacher was a very nice man but not a very good teacher. I taught myself calculus. I lived in the Math Lab where they had a copy of the solutions manual that they would let us use. I would look at how they solved the problems and teach myself that way. Once I figured out how to approach a certain type of problem by looking at examples, I worked as many additional problems as I could. I too “hated” math, but all it really took was a lot of time and hard work.

Emergency, AliJ, et al

Does calc all of sudden “make sense”? So, working through the problems it’s a little fuzzy, then it becomes a little clearer (perhaps even with the help of the math lab, tutors, etc which I’m absolutely going to use), then maybe it becomes easier to the point where a light bulb goes on and you feel like “Zoiks! I think I understand this now” sort of deal?

I hope so. I’d really like to take Calc 1 and 2 so that physics 1 and 2 are calc based but… would like to know it didn’t just “come easy” for everyone (because then I’d feel stupid).

I took pre-calculus and calculus in high school. It didn’t really come together for me until about halfway through calculus, and then everything seemed to make sense. It wasn’t exactly one epiphanic moment, but at some point I realized that it just wasn’t nearly as much of a struggle anymore.

I ended up getting my first degree in applied math, so I may be an outlier… Keep in mind also that my high school calculus teacher covered just about all of calculus one and two, so it would have been just about at the beginning of calculus two that it came together for me. Learning about integrals seemed to be the keystone that gave the rubble of my mind a recognizable form.


  • jkp2117 Said:

Does calc all of sudden "make sense"?

I think so. I think calc is very pattern-based, and once you get the pattern it all comes together. I'm sure others will disagree, though!

  • jkp2117]

    I hope so. I'd really like to take Calc 1 and 2 so that physics 1 and 2 are calc based but... color Said:

I'm not sure I would recommend calc-based physics, and I took calc-based Phys I and II. Calc-based Phys I is a "weed-out" course for freshman engineers. It was one of the most difficult classes I took. Not that I'm saying you can't handle it, but when you're trying to maintain a high GPA for med school admissions, there's not much to be gained by getting a "B" in engineering physics when you could have easily had an "A" in regular physics. . .unless you think there's a chance you may want to go into an engineering discipline instead of med school.

Calc based physics is for biology majors and pre-meds; the engineers take the next sequence higher.

It is required for a physiology degree BUT if I get into med school first, I would not get 2nd degree.

In order to start physics, I’d need to take calc 1 this summer, physics 1 with ochem in the fall. that has me pondering… also, will med schools check to see that I took the ‘easier, non-calc based physics’ vs. physics for biology majors and pre-meds (yes, both calc and physics have sequences for bio majors and pre-meds).

This is not my first degree and engineering is not of interest to me.

My bad! I didn’t mean to be insulting. I didn’t know some schools required calc-based physics for bio majors. My sister and I went to the same university - me as an engr, her as a biology major - and she did not have to take calc-based physics for her degree. Our school only had calc-based and not calc-based, no intermediate option for calc-based-but-not-for-en gineers.

Also, I figured engineering probably wasn’t an interest for you, but I made the mistake of taking biology-for-non-majors for my undergrad and am now stuck taking real biology. Same thing could happen to people taking a non-calculus based physics who could possibly get interested in biomedical engineering. . .Just trying to advise the masses & getting myself into trouble

You need only single variable calc for med schools, not multi. And I don’t know of any med school which requires calc-based physics FWIW.



First of all, I can’t comment much on the calc-based physics versus non-calc based since 1) med schools don’t care and 2) I haven’t taken physics. My girlfriend has two engineering degrees, however, and she said with physics it really doesn’t make much of a difference whether it’s calculus-based or not. YMMV.

As far as not all calc professors being atrocious, if you noticed, I said “most” teachers are atrocious…not all. However, my statement does hold true because from my experiences, and talking to other people, the majority of everyone’s calc professors were absolutely terrible. Why higher level math teachers are always terrible I don’t know but it annoys me to no end.

As far as teachers not letting you use a calculator in calc, from what I hear, this is done when they give you problems that don’t have big numbers and therefore you shouldn’t need a calculator. I’ve never taken a professor who does this but I’m sure that’s not quite how it works since, again, most calc profs suck.

AliJ hit the nail on the head too. If a group of students says a class is hard, everyone will run terrified from it for the most part and it may turn out to be the easiest class in the world for you. I took a financial accounting class last quarter, and according to, the professor was terrible, he demanded too much, the class was horrendously hard, blah blah blah. Well, it’s financial accounting, shouldn’t be rocket science and it wasn’t. It was the easiest class I’ve ever taken and he was the best non-science professor I’ve ever had. Don’t necessarily listen to what people say about the difficulty of a course.

Hell, for that matter, people said calculus was really hard and all this stuff and that it should be avoided. Honestly, calculus isn’t that hard or at least the material isn’t. It’s the damn atrocious professors that make it hard. Basically what it boils down to is whether you have the ability to teach yourself relatively straightforward material. One good thing about math is it’s either right or it isn’t; there’s no gray area or subjectivity involved. I would say just find a very well-recommended calculus book (if they make you buy one for assigned homework, sorry, get one in addition to it if it sucks) and then teach yourself the material. If you run into trouble, is the best resource in the world for taking any class that involves math.

Finally, for what it’s worth, I think most people do have that moment that “clicks” when it comes to learning calculus. I didn’t, but I did get so fed up with learning one part of calculus that I said screw it, drank a mini-keg of beer, and when I was completely hammered the stuff made sense, I was able to finish the homework (and got every problem I worked right) and from there on the rest of calc 1 went smoothly. I don’t know if that qualifies for the “click” moment, but you’ll have some sort of epiphany and it’ll suddenly make sense. I do not recommend the method I used, however, after that experience I’m convinced the asshole who came up with calculus was drunk at the time because that would explain a lot.

  • Dazed Said:
  • Tim Said:
My girlfriend has two engineering degrees, however, and she said with physics it really doesn't make much of a difference whether it's calculus-based or not. YMMV.

I would seriously differ. With that statement you just obliterated both Newtonian kinematics and quantum mechanics!

Physics without calculus is like Michael Phelps with no arms - you can float but you won't be crossing the English Channel anytime(sorry bad analogy but that just popped up). I think my grad school advisor just woke up screaming when you posted that!

Physics is built on calculus and for any indepth understanding of the subject you can not fathom proceeding without calculus. Heck you can't even write an introduction without calc.

However, as far as med school pre-req physics, if you have calc it'll make it a lot more understandable, if you don't, no worries, all you need is basic linear algebra and solid trig.

Hey, like I said, I never took physics so I personally can't verify the validity of any statements pertaining to physics.

However, I'll keep your reply in mind when I take physics for CEs to keep up my paramedic license once I have it...I'd prefer to actually understand physics, so if calc-based physics is a better choice, fine. I'm sure it'll help me understand the kinetics of trauma more at any rate.

I would have to agree with Tim. I took non-calculus based physics since I didn’t want to do all that math. I wanted to learn concepts, not how to manipulate equations. I feel that my non-physics class at my CC did just that and aided my fundamental understanding of the subject.

However, if you are after a deeper understanding of the subject, then by all means, dive right into calc physics. I have no doubt that would also be a beneficial course as well.

I took calculus and calculus-based physics. In retrospect, I agree you really don’t need calculus nor calculus-based physics to get into medical school, dental school, etc. College algebra and algebra-based physics would be fine in those situations. But I will caution that by not taking calculus and calculus-based physics, you will be severely limiting what science majors you can choose from (if you’re still pursuing a degree), what advanced-level science courses you can choose from, and what potential graduate studies you can choose from (like, in my case, I’m interested in biomedical engineering).


Yes, math is my god. I will forever be a devotee. I took a detour to high school math teacher the last time I attempted this pre-med thing (this time, there is but one choice). But your trouble may not actually be from calculus itself- which is conceptually simple. Where your problem probably lies is in algebra skills. My suggestion is to do one of two things: take a “calculus for life science majors” (WAY EASIER!)as my university offered or drop out of the class altogether and take a refresher PreCalc and/or College Algebra class. Then attempt to assail the mountain again (no lame “area under a curve” pun intended). But if conceptually you’re having trouble, try Calculus for Cats (unless you’re a dog person) it’s funny and informative. Good luck!

  • cocogoldsmith Said:

Yes, math is my god. I will forever be a devotee. I took a detour to high school math teacher the last time I attempted this pre-med thing (this time, there is but one choice). But your trouble may not actually be from calculus itself- which is conceptually simple. Where your problem probably lies is in algebra skills. My suggestion is to do one of two things: take a "calculus for life science majors" (WAY EASIER!)as my university offered or drop out of the class altogether and take a refresher PreCalc and/or College Algebra class. Then attempt to assail the mountain again (no lame "area under a curve" pun intended). But if conceptually you're having trouble, try Calculus for Cats (unless you're a dog person) it's funny and informative. Good luck!

This is what I did...took pre-calc at a very pathetic CC and was grossly unprepared for regular calculus. First day of class I just walked to admissions and dropped it...they expected me to already know everything, have every single trig function memorize, etc. I took calculus for life science majors, and honestly, I don't think you need more calculus than that for either physics or a bio major.

And honestly, its not that much easier either. You just do less trig (the calc teachers for that series are just as horrible as the regular ones typically are though). I'm on the fence as to whether algebra trips up a lot of people in both calc 1 & 2, it seems like my class mostly got tripped up by not understanding the concepts because the teachers were piss poor at teaching. And yes, I'm sure some would argue that it's not the teacher's fault if he/she does a shitty job, but when the entire class does bad then you have to wonder.

At any rate, I'll keep that in mind about the non-calc vs. calc physics. I could care less about getting an advanced science degree or whatnot so if physics without calc will give me the conceptual understanding then fine.